In this sense, human beings have been described as having rights to property, "to life, liberty, and the pursuit happiness" United States Declaration of Independence, as "free and equal in rights" Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, and as having rights "to share in scientific advancement and its benefits" Universal Declaration of Human Rights, More recently civil rights or liberties to freedom of speech and assembly have been complemented by proposals for social, economic, and welfare rights to minimum levels of shelter, food, and medical care. What was initially a quite limited relation of rights to science and technology, insofar as their advancement rested on the protection of intellectual property rights, has become increasingly a question of consumer rights to certain levels of material benefit and safety related especially to technology. The assessment of such diverse claims nevertheless requires appreciation of the broader philosophical discussion of rights and various analytic distinctions introduced to clarify numerous complications.
Such attributes are necessary in order for human rights to protect all humans at all times. A prime motivation for rights in general is to ensure that no-one is subject to unbridled calculations of utility, so that a minority do not suffer so that a greater number enjoy some benefit.
If anything is to stand in the way of governments or societies sacrificing individual or minority interests in favour of the collective, it is the bulwark of human rights. Similarly, human rights are argued to be universal and apply across political, religious, and cultural divides.
It is tempting in a liberal society such as Canada's to view human rights as both universal and inalienable. After all, so much of our political debate is built upon these suppositions that we take their reach for granted.
However, these qualities of human rights may not stand up under the light of probing scrutiny. Human rights are particularly vulnerable to challenges from both utilitarianism and cultural relativism.
These challenges relate to the nature of human rights, the choice of benefits that are said to be a matter of human rights, as well as the delivery of these benefits. Further problems emerge when one moves from the abstract right of an individual, to trying to assess the specific benefits any one individual is entitled to in relation to all others trying to exercise the same particular right, but the situation becomes even more complex when the issue involves balancing competing rights or balancing the good of individuals against the good of their community.
At one level rights are those claims which protect individuals from being subjected to calculations of pure utility. The promotion of the greatest happiness for the greatest number cannot justify some violation of an individual's welfare, if that individual has a right to the benefit in question.
The most basic utilitarian critique of human rights lies in the assertion that resources are scarce in any society, and especially limited in some. This scarcity inevitably leads to utilitarian calculations to allocate those resources in a way that will maximize the greatest good.
In the end, it is argued, all the benefits listed as human rights, even life itself, are subject to the promotion of the greatest good within a society. As such an individual's benefits claimed as a human right may be compromised, diluted, or even completely denied in specific situations where that right has to be weighed against the claim of another individual or of society as a whole.
This critique is not necessarily normative, in the sense that this should be the case, but may also stem from the observation that this is how societies do and will function. The utilitarian critique raises the question whether human rights are either absolute or inalienable.
By inalienable, I mean that individuals cannot surrender control over their right to another's discretionary authority. The ultimate authority to make the most important choices with respect to exercising that right cannot rest with someone else - either the state, another individual, or some entity - but must be able to be reclaimed and exercised by the individual whose right is at stake.
By absolute, I mean that the right in question cannot be totally denied. This is best seen in rights that pose dichotomous choices, such as the right to life's "do you die or live? Analysis becomes problematic since most rights are arguably entitlements to benefits that are exercised by increments.
Thus, it becomes impossible to assert that all human rights are absolute. Nevertheless, one can suggest that at least one right is absolute, or at least should be if human rights are to have any substantive meaning taken collectively.
The right to life is one such example, for no other human right can be relevant if life can be taken from an individual; the possession or enjoyment of all other human rights hinge on an individual being alive.
Various examples illustrate the utilitarian foundation we eventually land against, but perhaps the most basic right, that to life, raises dilemmas for human rights theory if it cannot be shown to be absolute.
A starting assumption for a right to life that is absolute lies in arguing that innocent lives must be protected if human life has any value to be protected through human rights. Indeed, Alan Gewirth has argued that there must be at least one absolute right: Gewirth portrays his argument with the example of an innocent mother held hostage by terrorists, who tell her son that they will detonate a nuclear explosion in a city if he does not kill his mother.
According to Gewirth, the mother still has her right to life which the son must not violate. The son's duty and moral culpability lies solely in his own direct actions. The principle of intervening action means that the terrorists would be solely responsible for any deaths from their threatened explosion, since the son cannot be completely certain that the terrorists would carry out their threat.
For Gewirth, his example of an absolute right stands the test. The son must not weigh the life of his mother against the lives of the city's population, because the other lives are not his responsibility. Gewirth's example, however, does not provide a scenario that fully tests the right of an innocent to life.
Utilitarian calculations on taking or sparing lives seem unavoidable in other situations.In this Assignment, you will rank three human rights violations in the workplace according to utilitarian theory and explain your rankings.
To prepare for this assignment: Review the article "Interests, Universal and Particular: . Human rights may be those entitlements that we have by virtue of being human, but there are real difficulties in determining which attributes of human life require protection under human rights .
THE CHALLENGES OF UTILITARIANISM AND RELATIVISM The most basic utilitarian critique of human rights lies in the assertion that resources are scarce in any society, and especially limited in some. raises dilemmas for human rights theory if it cannot be shown to be absolute. But if this is true, only act utilitarianism is a genuine utilitarian theory.
For to say that the rules must be kept is to say that they must be kept regardless of whether breaking them would increase the general happiness, and that doesn't sound like utilitarianism.
Utilitarian Theory. human rights, respect for individual dignity. Supervisors and shop foremen face safety violations, inappropriate use of company resources, manipulation of time cards. Utilitarianism, Kantian Ethics, Natural Rights Theories, and Religious Ethics A “utilitarian” argument, in the strict sense, is one what alleges that we ought to do something because it will produce more total happiness than doing anything else would.